Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Bismarck

Look also at ships; although they are large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. – James 3:4

 

74 years ago today, on May 27, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck succumbed to various torpedoes and bombs  from the British Royal Navy and slipped beneath the waters resting where she still does, under water 15,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the time of its’ launching, the Bismarck was the pride of the German navy and a source of fear for Great Britain.  England knew, if Bismarck was able to make it out of the Denmark Strait and into the vast Atlantic Ocean, she would have the capacity to do extreme damage to merchant convoy’s from the United States to Great Britain.  The Bismarck’s eight 15 inch guns were, at the time, the largest guns on any ship at sea.  In fact just a few days earlier, from a distance of over 18,000 yards, the Bismarck sunk the largest ship of the Royal Navy, the HMS Hood with one of those 15 inch guns hitting the target.   The Hood sank in less than 3 minutes.

Clearly, the Bismarck was an awesome and powerful ship.  Nazi Germany wished to unleash this vessel of destruction upon England.

After the sinking of the HMS Hood, there were some brief encounters with other ships and planes with the Bismarck receiving much less damage than she dished out, with one notable exception.  A small decades old bi-wing torpedo plane was able to score a hit in the Bismarck’s one vulnerable area.  The great ship’s port-side rudder was damaged so significantly that it was stuck in such a way the ship was locked in a perpetual 12 degree port side turn.  While the hit wouldn’t directly sink it, the Bismarck was unable to steer, therefore it was unable to get to port for repairs.  It was locked into a slow turn and doomed to anything and everything England could throw at it.

Bismarck_pic


The next day, May 27, Great Britain mustered anything that could float, shoot and fly to
converge on the area where the Bismarck was circling.   Between shells and torpedoes from various English warships, the Bismarck finally slipped below the waves at 10:40am.

What strikes me about the sinking of the Bismarck is how this large and powerful ship was ultimately defeated because of a jammed rudder.  While the ship could fire and propel itself, it was uncontrollable and therefore doomed to destruction.

James makes the comparison that even as “large” ships are controlled by a small rudder, so we are to control our tongue. It can be a serious weak area for us.  We must learn to control our tongue.  It is the subject of most of chapter 3 that our tongue must be something we learn to control.  Because if we don’t control our tongue, it will control us – meaning we will often face unnecessary difficulties because of what we’ve said.

But it’s more than just what we say.

Jesus made the statement that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  So, it isn’t as much as what we say, it’s really what we reveal about ourselves.  Our mouth only speaks what’s in our heart.

We need God to cleanse our heart.  Beyond just a point of salvation, we need His cleansing daily.  I need to keep myself in prayer, fellowship and maybe most importantly, in His Word.  Through His Word, I see those areas where His is working on me, I see how my heart struggles with sin and my bent isn’t always toward Him as I’d like.  And I really notice, that my mouth can often reveal the shallowness of my heart.

Just like that large seemingly invincible German battleship was brought to destruction by a small rudder, we too can be damaged and ship-wreck our testimony by not controlling our tongue.  I believe what James seems to be indicating, you will never reach your potential of service to God, if you don’t gain a significant degree of victory over your tongue.  As he says later in verse 10 of chapter 3, “Out of the same mouth comes blessing and curing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

Something more to think about as you reflect on what happened, 74 years ago today in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Blessings my friend

-jm

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I Am Outraged!

Therefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20

I have rarely found myself in trouble when I’ve just listened.  I when get into conflict, it is most often a result of something I said.  As I examine those instances, I can usually see it was a result of me not listening clearly and quickly speaking about something in a way which didn’t help the situation.

Further, since I wasn’t really listening, I didn’t get the full picture and therefore I became upset and quickly allowed anger to overtake my demeanor.  This of course usually doesn’t bring out the best in me and doesn’t reflect anyone’s idea of righteousness very well.

That’s why this admonition of the Apostle James strikes home with me.  He gives us three commands in quick order.  We are to be 1) swift (or quick) to listen, 2) slow to speak and 3) slow to wrath (or anger).   It’s the relationship trifecta.

James uses some strong language here and rather than bore you with all the details of the original language, let’s just say it’s like he is grabbing us by the lapels, pulling us close and stating in no uncertain terms that we as believers are to follow these three steps.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to wrath.  Doing these will help us produce the “righteousness of God.”

I submit to you these three commands are not meant to be stand-alone elements but are really three steps, to be taken in progression.

Swift To Listen

We are first to listen.  It is to be the first thing we do – listen.  Some of us are better at this that others, but I’m convinced listening is an acquired act.  It takes some determined effort to just listen to someone, especially if have a point of disagreement with them.  But we need to listen.  We need to listen first before anything else is done.

Proverbs 18:13 says this another way; “He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him”.

Before we are to speak on a matter, we need to listen.  We need to hear what is being said.  And really listen to the other person and not mentally rehearse what we’re going to say, but really listen with full attention. Only then can we actually speak to the issue.

Slow To Speak

The next step is to be slow in our response.  I suppose there are exceptions to this, ie, needing to call for help during an emergency or shouting a warning to someone immediately before they step into a hole.  But most of the time, we need to be  s-l-o-w  to speak.  Think about what we’ve heard, formulate of thoughts and then speak.

Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “Out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.”   In context, He is speaking about one bearing positive fruit especially in areas of conflict.  What we say (or how we respond) under stress is very revealing about our character.

Slow To Wrath (Anger)

The final step in this three-tiered progression is to be slow to anger or wrath.  Whatever term you prefer, it is obvious what James is speaking about, the emotion of anger.  This is not just a simple annoyance, but it can often begin as just that – a simple point of irritation that left unattended can lead to anger, even rage.

Notice he doesn’t say we can’t get to an emotional state of anger, but we are to get there slowly.  My experience on this is that if we take it slowly – especially if we’ve listened fully and spoke thoughtfully, the less likely it is that we display the “wrath of man” as James describes it.

Conclusion

Notice how these three progressive steps lead us to produce the righteousness of God as opposed to the wrath of man.  Our relationships are better because our testimony better reflects His character and nature when we use these three steps.

When facing difficult circumstances, we are often tempted to point our anger toward God.  I’ve even heard teaching that “we should just get all our anger out all toward God.  He’s big enough to take it.”  He is big enough to take it but is that the right way to approach the Almighty?

It seems to be that when faced with a difficult situation, if I am quick to listen to Him and it’s only after I’ve heard Him that I begin to pour out my heart to Him.  Finally, I find I am not nearly as emotionally distraught as I may have been earlier because I’ve been slow to respond emotionally.

James pushes us throughout his writing that we are to be different, full of good works, speech and treat each other in a positive manner.  By following these steps and being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, we better reflect the righteousness of God.

Blessings my friend

-jm

A Simple Prayer That Isn’t Simple

Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word – Psalm 119:17 NKJV

It’s just one verse, but it speaks volumes to us.  This is the Psalmist speaking to God asking a simple request, but there is nothing simple about it.  This verse breaks down into 4 phrases.  Looking at each of these carefully, one gets a sense of how our priorities are to be structured.

Phrase #1 – Deal Bountifully

The word “deal” can bring us images of a card game.  You’re dealt cards to play in a random manner.  You may get some good cards or you may not. But that isn’t the idea behind the term used here.

While we translate this into 2 words, in the original Hebrew, this is one word.  It’s an interesting term meaning maturing.  It’s to be a good and rewarding process.  It’s the same word we used in 1 Samuel 1:24 that we translate as “wean.”  When a child is weaned, that’s a good thing, the child is maturing and it can even be something to celebrate.  It’s also used in Isaiah 18:5 where we translate this as ”ripen” as in the ripening of grapes.

So the Psalmist is asking for God to mature him, to ripen him, to grow him up.  Growth, maturity takes time.  It can be a long process and it can be even painful for a short while.  But ultimately, in the end, it is a good thing, a rewarding thing for us.

Phrase #2 – Your Servant

Being a lowly servant is not something most people seek.  It isn’t the career path many choose.  In fact, I find it doubtful that too many people ever seek to get a bachelors, master or doctorate degree of servant-hood. Yet…  didn’t Jesus call us to serve?  Isn’t that to be a mark of a believer?

Servant-hood is difficult for many and for some of us it’s nearly impossible.  Whether it’s a result of our sin nature or just plain selfishness, we must constantly battle this idea.  Not only to serve each other, but to serve God.  Learning to submit to His direction in my life is a daily task.  While I do believe in a point of salvation, the daily struggle to submit to Him seems to be on-going.

I am His servant.  His wishes take precedent over mine.  I do not get to perform only the tasks I want to or those that I like, but I must submit to Him will.  Whether I agree with His commands or whether I don’t.  Whether I like them or not, whether I understand the “why” behind the command or not. I am His servant.  The Psalmist is making this simple statement, I am Your servant LORD.  It is a reminder that all of us need to make part of our daily walk.

Phrase #3 – That I May Live

How often to you thank God for life? It is only through God that we live.  He holds the world together.  In Him all things “consist” (Colossians 2: 17).  He is the creator and giver of life. It is a precious thing that only comes from the Father.

Life is more than just existing.  Jesus told us that He came to give life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). In the same verse He draws a contrast between what the “thief” does (steal, kill and destroy) and what He is to do.  How amazing is it to grasp that God provides life and that our life may be abundant and full of value.  One way you might look at this verse is to say our life is to be productive.  You aren’t meant to merely exist, but to experience this great and unique thing called life.

I think when the Psalmist uses this phrase he is speaking out about experiencing life.  Not just living but finding fullness or purpose.

Phrase #4 – Keep Your Word

This dovetails nicely with the second phrase about being a servant, but adds a point about His Word.  The Psalmist’s goal is not just serving God but keeping His Word.  The writer has an obvious high value on the Word and he prays that he is able to “keep” or obey it.

The Word isn’t something one is to take lightly.  It is God’s message to us, yet as I reflect back on my own prayers, I often realize I haven’t often prayed, “Lord help me keep Your Word.”  My tendency is to pray for my comfort, protection, provision etc.  Even when I pray for others, I find I rarely pray specifically that God would help someone obey (or keep) His Word.

So, let’s put these four phrases together and see if there is something deeper here than just a simple prayer.  In other words:

As God matures me, and all that the mature process entails, I must always maintain an attitude of service or submission to Him.  As that happens, I find my life, through Him, has more purpose and fulfillment.  This is even more evident when I am embracing His Word and walking in obedience to Him.

It’s only one verse.  But this is a rich verse and a great prayer for all of us.

Blessings my friend.

-jm

Submarines

In the cankerous mind of the devil, there festered a fiendish scheme;

He called his cohorts around him, and designed the submarine .

“The Submarine” by Walter Bishop

World War II has been something of an interest of mine.  Pearl Harbor, the D-Day campaign and naval battles have been the areas I’ve been reading about WWII.  Recently, I picked up a book called The War Below by James Scott which covers the patrols of three different US submarines.  In its most basic form, a submarine’s mission is to find a target, approach it by stealth and attack without the enemy ever knowing where the attack was originating.  The resulting chaos from an unknown attacker makes any retaliatory action by the enemy less effective.

Submarines were so different in their approach to warfare that as late as early 1900’s submarines were considered immoral.   In a  New York Times editorial dated April 13, 1916 stated, “Submarine war is inherently inhuman and for that reason should be prohibited.”USS Owl Submarine

These are the days before nuclear propulsion and GPS systems.  Those WWII subs needed to surface on a regular basis to charge their batteries.  While submerged, they often needed to have their periscope above the waves to navigate (they still used star charts to plot their position) and see their enemy to fire torpedoes.  This was a weakness of the subs and therefore the prevailing way to combat submarines was to constantly be looking for them.  Look outs would be dutifully watching the sea for the telltale sign of a periscope peeking out of the water.  Of course, that is easier said than done since a periscope is a rather small item to look for on a vast ocean.

Like a submarine, our enemy tends to approach us by stealth and fire at us when we least expect it.  Peter tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary, the devil walks about like a lion looking whom he may devour” – 1 Peter 5:8.  But what does it mean to “Be sober, be vigilant…” beyond just not being intoxicated?  Is there more to this warning?

The first word is more than just not drinking too much.  It refers to the “intoxicating influence of sin.” It refers to “having a presence of mind” and a “clear judgment.”

The next word, we translate as “vigilant” means to be watchful or “on the alert.”

So when Peter puts these words together he is warning us in the strongest language to watch out, pay attention, BE ON THE ALERT!!!!  Our adversary is on the prowl and it’s only the wise and prudent believer is prepared to do battle.  Like the submarine, he approaches by stealth, waits for the perfect time and strikes without warning.

Jesus, referring to the devil said “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy” -John 10:10a. James tells us “But each one of you is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” – James 1:14. The devil is very real and he is out for our destruction.

Further, we have defensive methods available.  We are to be on the alert, look out and pay attention because of Satan’s presence.  As Christians, we have God’s Word as a weapon (Hebrews 4:12) and unique armor (Ephesians 6:11-16).

We are in a battle.  It’s not one fought off small islands in the Pacific Ocean, but it’s a very personal and constant spiritual battle.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty in God..” (emphasis mine).

It is a battle, everyday.  But it’s a battle where we need not to succumb to defeat.  Arm yourself.  Get in His Word and pay attention.  He’s out there looking to deceive, discourage  and defeat you.